Buy now! - Learn more about Abaarso's extraordinary story in Abaarso Founder, Jonathan Starr's, new book "It Takes A School"

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Our Team

Abaarso’s success would not be possible without the support of a diverse and talented group of faculty and board members, both in Somaliland and the U.S., who are all incredibly dedicated to the success of the school and the future opportunities of its students.

Executive Staff
Somaliland Board of Directors

Mr. Ahmed Jambir Suldan, Board Chair
Former Interior Minister, Somaliland Ministry of the Interior

Mr. Saeed Ahmed Mohamoud, Board Vice Chair
Independent Consultant

Mr. James Linville, Board Secretary
Headmaster, Abaarso School of Science and Technology

Mr. Ahmed Ibrahim Awale
Chairman, Candlelight for Environment, Education, and Health

Mr. Abdi Hassan Duale
Executive Officer, National Professions Commission

Mr. Abdulkader Hashi Elmi
CEO, Maansoor Hotel

Mr. Omer Jama Farah
Manager, Taakulo Somaliland Community

Ms. Amal Ahmed Misan
Presidential Advisor on Women’s Affairs, Somaliland Presidential Office

Sh Mohamed Mohamoud, Religious Scholar

Dr. Jinaw Mohamed Qaalib
Medical Doctor and Lecturer, Global Polyclinic, University of Hargeisa, and Frantz Fanon University

U.S. Advisory Board Members

Jonathan Starr
Founder and Headmaster Emeritus

Anand Desai
Board Chair

Mohammed Ali
Senior Vice President, Hartford Investment Management Company

Gaurav Bhandari
Managing Partner, Long Arc Capital

Andra Ehrenkranz
Independent Education/Marketing Professional

John Ehrenkranz
Chief Investment Officer, Ehrenkranz Partners LP

Mitch Golden
Portfolio Manager, Greenlight Masters

Mohammed Gouled
VP Risk & Financial Sustainability, IFC

Mustafa A. Jama
Managing Director, Morgan Stanley Investment Management

Steve Kuhn
Co-founder, ASK Charitable Foundation

Adeel Qalbani
Managing Partner, Perry Creek Capital

Michael Pollack
Clinical Assistant Professor of Business & Society, NYU Stern School of Business

Bradley Francis
Portfolio Manager, Pharo Management LLC

Abaarso Staff
Jonathan Starr
Founder | Headmaster Emeritus

Since 2008, Jonathan has been Managing Director, Headmaster, and Founder of Abaarso School. From 2004 – 2008, Jonathan founded and led Flagg Street Capital, a private investment firm that managed $170 million of assets. Prior to Flagg Street, he worked as an Analyst at SAB Capital and at Blavin and Company. Jonathan’s career started as a Research Associate within the Taxable Bond Division at Fidelity Investments. In addition to his full-time responsibilities, Jonathan sat on the Board of Directors of Pomeroy IT Solutions, a publicly traded IT company generating $500 million of annual sales. Jonathan’s board responsibilities included acting as a member of the Audit Committee, the Advisory Committee, and the Special Committee (strategic alternatives) of Pomeroy. Jonathan graduated from Emory University, with a B.A. Summa Cum Laude in Economics and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

It Takes a School: The Extraordinary Story of an American School in the World’s #1 Failed State
by Jonathan Starr

A story of David and Goliath proportions, how an American hedge fund manager created a unique school in Somaliland whose students, against all odds, have come to achieve success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.


Ava Ramberg
Strategic Development

A native of Minnesota, Ava graduated with high distinction from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School with a degree in Public/Non-Profit Management and Entrepreneurial Management. Ava’s interest in international development began at Children’s Home Society and Family Services. Before Abaarso, she served as a youth and maternal health education advocate in Kenya. She also traveled extensively in East Africa and speaks English, French, and Swahili. At Abaarso, Ava taught math for three years and developed a passion for improving students’ fundamentals and ability to think critically. Ava also served as the Assistant Headmaster and the Director of Development, initiating Abaarso’s Kiva program. Now in New York, Ava is committed to ensuring that Abaarso will continue to create thoughtful, tenacious, and principled leaders of Somaliland.

James Linville
Headmaster | Faculty of Mathematics

James was born and raised in New York, NY. He graduated with high honors from the University of Virginia, studying politics, philosophy and history. He was briefly a PhD student at Princeton University before leaving in 2014 to join Abaarso In his time at Abaarso he has served as Head of the Lower School, Assistant Headmaster and, since December 2015, as Headmaster.  In addition to running Abaarso, he is a Trustee of Coker College, and manages a fund dedicated to expanding educational opportunity within disadvantaged communities.

Katie Chlumska
Assistant Headmaster | Faculty of English

Katie was born in the Czech Republic, but grew up and studied in Great Britain. After graduating with a BA International Relations (with German) from the University of Exeter, she pursued further education, completing a Masters degree in Global and Comparative Politics at Queen Mary, University of London. Throughout her studies, Katie developed a passion for the non-profit sector, particularly working with children, in education development and modern English language curriculum development. She’s volunteered for organisations such as UNICEF, Our Sansar and Amnesty International, and led an English Language Conversation Club for refugees in London. Since leaving London in 2013, Katie has worked and travelled around the world, including Europe, Palestine, Nepal and China. In her spare time, Katie coordinates social media for a British-Nepalese NGO Our Sansar and loves playing sports, running, dancing and snowboarding. She is now looking forward to exploring Africa and working with the wonderful students at Abaarso, Somaliland.

Marlee Burns
Co-Head of the Upper School | Faculty of Mathematics

Marlee graduated with highest honors from the University of Texas at Austin, triple majoring in International Relations, Middle Eastern Studies, and Plan II Honors. While there, she founded a mentoring program with a local middle school, and spent two summers studying in Turkey. In Spring 2015, she was selected as a White House Intern where she worked with the White House Fellowship Program, developing the leadership skills of young people. After graduation, Marlee moved to a small town in rural Azerbaijan as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, where she loved being immersed in the community and culture. She is an avid stress baker, and enjoys camping and traveling. Marlee loves working with youth and is extremely excited to work with the Abaarso students.

Stephen Finney
Co-Head of the Upper School | Faculty of English

Originally from Kentucky, Stephen received a BA in Studio Art (focusing in glass blowing and ceramics) from Centre College in 2008. From 2009-2011, he served as Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon and worked as an agroforestry extension agent. His primary projects were aimed at sustainable agriculture practices, reforestation techniques, and the implementation of “appropriate technologies.” Additionally, he taught primary school English at the local school and finance courses to adults in the community. After the Peace Corps, Stephen attended Parsons the New School for Design in New York City and received a Double MFA in architectural lighting design and interior architectural design. Most recently, he has been merging the technical with the aesthetic while teaching graduate courses in architectural representation/spatial analysis at Parsons The New School for Design and working as an architectural lighting designer on electric/daylight design for museums and cultural institutions.

James Greisler
Head of the Lower School | Faculty of English & Creative Arts

Originally from a small town in Upstate New York, James graduated from Hamilton College in 2010 with a BA in Theatre. Wishing to see the world, James spent the following years teaching English in South Korea and in the Republic of Georgia. From 2013-2014 James spent two years teaching English in Malaysia under the Fulbright Program. There he led drama activities, including adaptations of Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Dr. Seuss stories, as well as over 20 day-long English camps and a student art exhibition. James also did outreach work with his Orang Asli (native) students and their community, resulting in a meeting between the students and U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry. An avid reader, James enjoys hiking, folk dances, and playing his trumpet and sapeh.

Jennifer "Jennie" Bromberg
COO | Faculty of Science

Jennifer was born and raised in Bexley, Ohio. She graduated with honors from Brandeis University in 2015 with degrees in Health: Science, Society, and Policy and International and Global Studies. At Brandeis, Jennifer was selected as a Ruderman Social Justice in Disability scholar and worked as a research assistant at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management.

Hamza Mahdi
Dean of Boys | Faculty of Mathematics

Hamza was born in Hargeisa and moved to the countryside when he was very young to herd cows for four years and learn to appreciate the value of a disciplined life. He then came back to Hargeisa for primary school and Islamic education until he entered SOS Sheikh Secondary School where he learned to write his first paragraph in English seven years ago. Hamza transferred to Abaarso School halfway through his high school education. He also attended the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg as well as Deep Springs College in California. He loves coaching and reading great books. 

Isobel “Issy” Freeman
College Counselor | Faculty of History & Creative Arts

Isobel is from New Zealand, having graduated from the University of Auckland in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Anthropology. Part of her studies included a semester abroad at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2012 she volunteered in Tanzania and Kenya and fell in love with the people and culture. Working at Abaarso fulfills her dream to work in international development, specifically with youth. She is a strong believer in the power of education and is excited to be a part of Abaarso’s mission. Isobel loves traveling and is excited to explore more of Africa during school breaks. She also enjoys cooking, singing, and adrenalin sports.

Andrew “Andy” Neal
Primary Tutoring Program Coordinator | Faculty of English

Originally from the heartland plains of Western Australia, Andrew has spent most of his life near the beaches of New Zealand, which he now considers home. He completed a BA (Hons) at the University of Waikato, majoring in International Relations and Media Studies. He went on to work in journalism and photography at local newspapers and later won the New Zealand Young Photographer award. Setting his sights further afield, he moved to Korea to teach English in 2013 and spent the past two and a half years doing the same in China. He still enjoys writing and photography and has a passion for travel, education and human rights, as a long-term member of Amnesty International. He is new to Abaarso in 2016, teaching English and Social Studies and is really excited to be part of the school community.

Noah Dunn
Director of Development & Student Placement | Alumni Support Coordinator


Noah’s experience from 2011-2014 in development at various social service nonprofits throughout the US, as well as teaching and mentoring students at Stonehill College, led him to join Abaarso’s faculty in 2014. Since then, he has supported the school’s growth and students in numerous capacities from teaching, advising, coaching, college counseling, alumni support, development, and more. Outside of school, Noah is known as the resident male faculty hairstylist and barber, weekend chef, and to be found scouring the surrounding landscape solving bouldering problems.

Abdiwahab Sh. Husein Ali
Faculty of Islamic Studies

Sheekhu wuxuu dhashay sanadii 1977. Waxbarashadiisa waxa uu ka bilaabay magaalada Baydhaba. Waxa uu xooga saaray barashada aqoonta diinta Alle. Soyaalkiisii dheeraa ee waxbarashadiisa diintu waxay ahayd mid aan kala go’ lahayn. Laga soo bilaabo 10 jirkiisii ilaa maanta oo uu 40 jir yahay. Ma aha oo kaliya waxbarasho uu baranaayey, balse waxa uu leeyahay khibrad dhanka wax-dhigista diinta iyo ku barbaarinta caruurta tarbiyada wanagsan oo uu ku soo dhex jirey mudo ku dhow 25 sano. Macalinku waxa uu wax ka soo dhigay magalooyinka Baydhabo, Muqdisho, iyo Hargeisa. Waxa intaas dheer isaga oo Culuumta Shareecada ka diyaariyey Jamacada Golis ee Hargeisa.

Hodan Mohamed Ali
Faculty of Somali

Hodan was born and raised in Somaliland. She earned a B.A. in Business from the University of Hargeisa and a postgraduate degree in Islamic banking and finance from Beder International University in partnership with Arees University in the US. Since graduating from her university studies, Hodan has worked in the field of business and Islamic banking and finance with different international organizations and humanitarian organizations, such as Coopi. Hodan’s personal interests include Somali literature and creative writing.

Kenichi Nozaki
Faculty of English & Mathematics

Kenichi graduated from Tufts University in 2012 with a B.A. in International Relations. He then worked for educational nonprofits in New York City in addition to teaching English for a year in Haiti and Bosnia. He has also studied Arabic in Syria and has a keen interest in refugee policy in the Middle East and North Africa. Outside of the classroom, Kenichi is a diehard Everton F.C. supporter who has a passion for photography, roller coasters, and snowboarding. He also enjoys cooking for the staff on Fridays with the Lunch Bunch.

Hassen Bashir
Faculty of Computer Science & History

Hassen was born in Jowhar, Somalia around the beginning of the Somali Civil War. About a year later he and his family were forced to flee the region and cross into Kenya. For another few months they moved from refugee camp to refugee camp. Upon contacting family already living in America, they were able to leave Kenya and move to the US. Hassen took a few years off before college and traveled and taught English in East Africa. In 2015, he graduated from DePaul University with a BA in International Studies. He loves music (especially hip-hop), film, creative writing, and international politics. He’s always looking for new additions to this list.

Megan Garrison
Faculty of English & History

Megan grew up in a small, farm town in Texas. She graduated from the University of Dayton with a B.A in Communication with a concentration in Journalism and a B.A in American Studies. She was a host of her own radio show for four years, an officer in the Honors Communication Fraternity, Phi Beta Chi, and a writer for the University of Dayton Magazine, Dayton Most Metro and Dayton City Paper. After graduating, Megan packed her bags for a two-year service with the Peace Corps in Mongolia where she lived in a tent and worked with the members of a nomadic, herding tribe in the Eastern steppe. Now starting her first year with Abaarso, she is excited to help the students learn and grow while singing songs about her fat cat she’s leaving behind in Ohio.

Elizabeth “Nora” Harless
Faculty of English & Mathematics

Originally from Nashville, TN, Nora Harless graduated from New York University, where she received a BFA in Drama with concentrations in fiction, non-fiction and Spanish. A self-described Hispanophile and aspiring international journalist, Nora has spent time traveling South America, documenting the Chino-Cubano community in Havana, Cuba, and working with arts schools in the coastal region of Ecuador. Additionally, she is the co-founder of Epicentre, a Quito-based nonprofit that provides sustainable solutions in post-crisis communities. Nora is thrilled to finally be taking her love of storytelling and self-expression across the pond to the talented students at Abaarso.

Lindsay Patrick
Faculty of Science

Lindsay received her BScH in Biology and her MSc and PhD from the Dep’t of Anatomy and Cell Biology from Queen’s University in Canada. Her research focused on fetal physiology, particularly problems affecting brain development before birth. After a post-doctoral fellowship, Lindsay joined the Canadian federal government as a Science Advisor and then became a Clinical Reviewer in Health Canada’s Biologic and Genetic Therapies Directorate. During graduate studies and public service, Lindsay has held additional positions as an Instructor at the University of Ottawa, an MCAT instructor for Kaplan Test Prep and a community educator, writer and editor for several non-profit groups. She will greatly miss a lot of things about living in Ottawa but shoveling snow will not be one of them.

Dania Roach
Faculty of Mathematics & Science

A native of Georgia, Dania has lived in Washington, DC for the past five years. She graduated with a degree in Biomedical Engineering from The George Washington University, where she served as co-director of the gospel choir. She discovered her interest in international development when she interned with the Safe Blood for Africa Foundation. Passionate about education, she has spent a few summers teaching science, medicine and robotics classes to kids at a local science camp and is excited to work with the students at Abaarso. Dania loves singing and learning new recipes.

Arkadiusz “Arek” Wilczynski
Faculty of Computer Science

Arkadiusz graduated from Poznan University of Technology in 2013 with a Master of Science in Computer Science. During his studies he spent a semester at Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal and completed the IAESTE internship in Istanbul, Turkey. Shortly after graduation he fulfilled his dream of traveling between Beijing, China and Bali, Indonesia without taking a plane. The following year he returned to China to work as a middle school teacher. When not traveling, Arek works as a freelance programmer developing web applications.

Sulekha Yassin
Faculty of Science & English

Sulekha was born in Somaliland and moved to Liverpool, England at a very young age. She was raised in Liverpool and although, Somali by ethnicity is also a proud Scouser. Sulekha’s studies focused on Psychology which resulted in graduating from London Metropolitan University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science degree (BSc). She has a diverse work experience background from volunteering for a charity that educates adults and children about different faith/backgrounds before University, to working at Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London while studying. Post graduation Sulekha worked within the financial operations sector in a department store for a British national retailer. During the next year Sulekha looks forward to teaching at Abaarso School, embarking on a new journey and gaining new experiences.

Andrew “Drew” Yingling
Faculty of Mathematics

Drew graduated with the highest honors from Bucknell University in 2015. He double majored in history and economics and pursued a minor in anthropology. While a student, he was actively involved in research through the history department and traveled extensively throughout the developing world on medical missions. After graduation, he taught for a year in the South Pacific in the US Territory of American Samoa. He is an avid runner, animal lover, and novice cook.

Lindsay Taaffe
Faculty of English & History

Lindsay was born and raised in Canada and has been a marketing and strategy executive for over ten years. Her studies include Psychology and English at the University of Toronto, Digital Media at OCAD University, and various MOOCs. As a proponent of growth through education, Lindsay is excited to join the Abaarso team in its commitment to student and community success. In her free time, Lindsay enjoys traveling, reading or learning just about anything, doing yoga, and spending time outdoors.